Vaccine Advisory Committee debates order of priority groups

Oregon's Vaccine Advisory Committee debated if people of color or those with chronic conditions should be prioritized in its recommendations on Thursday.

Posted: Jan 22, 2021 10:50 AM
Updated: Jan 22, 2021 11:01 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon's Vaccine Advisory Committee debated Thursday over whether people of color or those with chronic conditions should be prioritized in its recommendations.

The VAC is charged with recommending to Oregon Health Authority the sequence of vaccine priority groups after Phase 1b is complete. The committee was directed to prioritize communities through a health equity lens.

The group had previously considered prioritizing a wide swath of Oregonians, including incarcerated individuals, multi-generational homes and refugees. At a meeting on Thursday, the VAC whittled down the list to include just two groups: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and people with chronic illnesses.

Members of the VAC then debated which group should be prioritized over the other. 

“I don’t agree with removing BIPOC as the first priority. I think it whitewashes the structural racism and systemic racism that we are trying to center," said Kelly Gonzales of Oregon Health & Science University.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, communities of color have experienced a disproportionate number of coronavirus cases.

Other members of the group felt that focusing on those with chronic conditions would also benefit communities of color, where such conditions are more common due to health inequities.

“Chronic health conditions are more common in minority communities. This way does sort of target the most vulnerable people within our communities and it is one approach to this very, very complicated problem," said Kalani Raphael of the Oregon Pacific Islander Coalition.

The VAC will meet again on Jan. 28 and is expected to make a final recommendation.

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